Log Cabin Chronicles

History Is An Afterword

Some who immigrated to Indiana's industrialized Calumet Region during the 1950s had come from the great Danube basin spreading from Carpathian Alps to the north southward to the Dalmatian and from the Carnic Alps in the west eastward to Erdelau (Transylvania).

After World War I, they found themselves, though ethnically Hungarian, subject now as foreigners under governments created at Western trophy tables; during World War II they were foreigners in their homelands. Hungary -- as did Austria and Rumania -- fell under Fascist domination.

After World War II, again Hungarians became scapegoats; within the invented countries they became outcasts whose presence in America signaled an "ethnic cleansing" of East Europe, one no less vile than that of the Nazis.

When "communism failed" in East Europe, Germany -- cause of two great wars, the long war - Germany -- the seat of crimes against humanity -- was re-united. Yet two-thirds of Hungarians live outside "Hungary"; two-thirds of their historical homeland lay within its neighbors' boundaries. What decency requires longer and greater punishment for the victim than for criminal?

Today, the Hungarians - Magyars -- cannot return. Generations have taken their toll. To Americans they are "foreign" by name, exotic and esoteric in culture; in their homeland, they are as foreign. Let us cry over lines drawn by kings and lackeys cutting through fields they have not seen, estranging neighbors who've lived the crime of life despite armies marching with death -- those soldiers leave behind more than broken weapons and their dead comrades.

There is a child in every village who is a soldier's son whose cry holds the accent of a past passage through village by Roman, Frank, Turk, German with hunger and lust in their bellies. Hard men who performed as if with beasts in the fields against daughters who mother their offspring.

Quaint now the child's hungering eyes for the tourists who wonder why this shed or that has not been rebuilt. It is the manger where the beasts performed worship. It is the space under heaven where a foreigner was born into this land. It is the quitclaim of warring armies who come but do not know the village name.

These streets I tramped as a child with my father as history in my ear telling of moments when deeds once heroic and noble acts of love became barbaric. We have survived with the blood of martyrs in our blood, he would tell; we have survived Mongol and Turk; the blue eyes and blonde, the madness of Franks; our children, our wound. Eyes of the conqueror, hair of the sojourner...

Mixed blood is strong blood; they become we. I, too, am the war and its guilt. As are you. Bitch and mongrel of the western march through Africa, Mid-East and East beyond. Lies of highbrow breeding, strange purity of race and God; conquerors and conquered are who we are; all flags in our genetic mix.

John Horváth Jr

John Horváth Jr, a South Chicagoan in Mississippi exile, has written since the 1960s. Most recently published in Perimeter, Duct Tape Press, and Mindfire Poetry Journal (US), and in Badosa EP (Spain), Audax (Germany), and The Inditer (Canada), his poetry explores ethnic and regional, private or public identity. He writes about the strange and stranger among or within us, about where events, experience, history, and memory mingle.

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Copyright © 1999 John Horváth Jr